Reality and Spirituality in Leipzig By Viliam Jablonický

in 48th Leipzig International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film

by Viliam Jablonický

“Dok Leipzig”, the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film took place under the new management of festival director, Claas Danielsen, whose ambition is to “establish the festival as a central German meeting point for the documentary film industry with international vibrancy”. (Festivalkatalog 2005)

From the International Competition of Documentary Films this year, which were chosen by the selection committee from many hundreds of works, we can see two main tendencies: to see the world of man from the outside through his connection to reality and from inside – the spirituality and emotions felt by the protagonists. There were good features and short films that illustrated both categories.

The FIPRESCI-Jury gave its Award to the film Workingman’s Death by the Austrian director Michael Glawogger. The film questions the disappearance of the classic working man. In the Third World, people still work under very brutal and harsh conditions. The documentary covers the subject with high cinematographic quality and an impressive narrative structure making Workingman’s Death breathtaking to watch.

Among the films that have the chance to find a greater audience, not only on television, but in cinemas all over the world, could be The Giant Buddhas, made by Swiss director Christian Frei, auteur of War Photographer (2001). This fascinating documentary reveals the thousand and five hundred years existance of two statues of Buddha in the Bamayan valley which have suffered from the conflicts in the region. The director shows not only the tragic destiny of Afghanistan and world cultural heritage but how a group of scientists are preparing a complicated reconstruction. The film also reveals the discovery of a hitherto unknown huge statue of Buddha.

German director Phillipp Gröning in Die Grosse Stille, Into Great Silence, after fifteen years effort got the possibility to shoot the secret and routine life in a Carthusian monastery in the French Alps. Two and a half hours of only silent images of old and young monks shows the beauty of human souls so far from the brutal world of consumerism and the fears of living or dying.

In contrast, in Under Stjärtnorma, Beneath the Stars by Tilli Johnson and Helgi Felixson, young people are sleeping and dying on the street from drugs and crimes. In The Fall of Fujimori , by American Ellen Perry, a hero fights for democracy, the human and social rights for citizens, but it was maybe too populistic.

Among the short films, Pries parskrendant i zeme, Before flying back to the Earth , by Arunas Matelis, shows young talented people dying of cancer; in Pige Med Mobil, Girl with a Telephone by Danish director Anja Kvistgaard, a ten-year old is troubled by the divorce of his parents; in Min Fars Sind, The Mind of my Father, filmmaker and daughter Vibe Mogensen tries to record and help her father through psychiatric ilness; L´Avenir, The Future (directed by Claudio Zulian) reveals the scepticism of people after factories close down in a small former industrial city in France.

In Okno, Window by Gauhar Sydykowa and Furjat Tursunov, a very young boy looks after his ill mother like an adult and Abel Raises Cain , by Jenny Abel, is an American portrait of a father who is always fighting the stupidity round himself.

These are some of the examples from the many talented young as well as experienced documentary directors whose films were shown in Leiopzig this year.